GOP Rep. Shrugs Off Head Start Cuts: ‘It Was Just One Of Those Things’

Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI)

The spending cuts that House Republicans proposed for the remainder of the fiscal 2011 year would gut important federal investments in special education, K-12 education for low-income students, federal job training, environmental protection, community health centers, nuclear security, infrastructure, programs that aid both pregnant women and newborns, housing assistance for veterans and rental assistance for people with long-term disabilities. And one of the primary targets on the long list of programs that Republicans have slated for reductions is Head Start.

Head Start, as Alex Seitz-Wald noted, is “a valuable early education program, which has helped millions of low-income children and their families through comprehensive education, health, nutrition, and parent involvement services since it was started in 1965.” Protests have been staged across the country against these particular cuts, with many taking place at the offices of various lawmakers. However, when Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI) is asked about why Republicans proposed cutting Head Start, he just shrugs:

U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, said when groups ask him why their budgets were picked to be cut, he asks them, “What would you cut?” […]

[Walberg] added that the cut to Head Start was just one piece of the Republicans’ proposal, and the program was not singled out for a separate vote. “It was just one of those things,” he said.

Walberg doesn’t seem interested, but study after study has found that Head Start provides substantial long-term benefits to disadvantaged children. Head Start students are more likely to be reading and writing at the appropriate level in their early school years, have better health outcomes, earn more money, and commit fewer crimes. Parents with students in Head Start are also more likely to be involved in their child’s education and cost states less in Medicaid outlays.

One long-term study in California found that “our society receives nearly $9 in benefits for every $1 invested in Head Start children.” There are certainly ways to reform the program to make it even more responsive to the needs of children and their parents, but Republicans are simply throwing it under the budget knife, without even having bothered thinking up a reason.